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Dive Into Caroline Z. Hurley's Amazing Paintings

The artist-turned-designer talks us through four stellar works.

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Studio action!

“I feel like I was throwing paint around out of the womb,” Caroline Z. Hurley jokes. Once she grew up a little, she studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and started exhibiting her work all over—New York City, Los Angeles, Rome, Memphis, you name it. Here, Caroline, who now has a namesake line of jewelry and textiles as well, tells about some of her key paintings. —raquel laneri

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Pile of Laundry (2004)
I studied abroad in Rome my junior year of college, and I got really inspired by the clotheslines there. You would see these really personal things, like oversized bras and boxers and really small Speedos for men, and it was just so bold—right in the main square! I did this painting directly after Rome. I set up in my studio in Providence, Rhode Island, with piles of clothing, photos I had taken, and images from magazines or books, so my studio was covered with inspiration, which is the way I like to work best. My work is all about colors, and the colors are the ones I kept seeing in Rome. For example, those three blue streaks at the bottom were part of this sweater I wore there almost every day. That was the year I finally figured out what I wanted to paint. After I came back from Rome, it was like ‘OK. I get it.’”

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Rio (2012)
“This painting has transformed so many different times. I keep paintings around and work on them until I feel like they’re done, and this one had been around for like a year. I would just add small things at a time. Then one day I was looking at this magazine about Rio de Janeiro, and all of a sudden I started putting all these pictures of Rio up in my studio. I’ve never been there, but I did a sort of aerial view of what I thought the coast of Rio would look like, with the flashy bikinis and the beachy colors.”

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Thank You, Virgin America (2010)
“It was 2010, and I was living in Los Angeles. I had this huge aircraft hanger I used as a studio, and it was so awesome because I could really just let loose and do these huge paintings and be messy. But there was a point where I felt kind of stuck—it was like I had writer’s block but for painting. So I took a trip to New York, and on the way back home, I was walking down the aisle of the plane and every pattern I saw was just popping out at me. It was like this video of awesome shirts and weird patterns, and if you blurred your eyes it kind of looked like a painting. So I sat in my seat, and the whole six-hour ride I was drawing things around me. I had all these sketches to put up in my studio when I got home. I had been so fed up with everything I was doing before then, and this was the painting that refueled my love of painting.”

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The Beach (2009)
“I usually do abstract paintings, but with this painting, I was living in New York and really missing the beach. I was looking at this picture of a beach in L.A., and I was like ‘God, I just need to get this out,’ and I did this painting in 10 minutes. I was thrilled by how quickly and easily it came out, and it led to this yearlong series of beaches. I can remember the feeling I had when I was painting this—a little frustrated but also excited by these little patterns and textures—and the feeling is conveyed in the painting.”

Tomorrow, score a piece of Caroline’s (textile!) work. Sign up for our newsletter list so you don’t miss it.